The first time I visited Interlaken in Switzerland in 2008, I was a fresh faced and wide-eyed twenty year old girl on holiday from studying abroad in Spain. I’m fairly sure that was the first time I laid eyes on glaciers and big snowy mountains, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Thank you Alps!
I’m pretty sure Interlaken is Europe’s equivalent of Queenstown, New Zealand. A picturesque city on a lake in the Alps filled with adventure sports, it’s easy that backpackers are drawn to it, even if it can be on the pricey side. Back on that 4 day trip, we spent two nights sleeping in airports and one night sharing a twin hostel bed. Oh those were the days!
I’ve been back regularly ever since. Switzerland is one of those countries that gets under your skin and makes you want to come back. Again and again and again. It is stunning.
I spent a week in the Jungfrau region in Switzerland exploring with the highlight being a bluebird powder day snowboarding. As someone who is not that great on a snowboard, I thought I’d share my Swiss mountain adventures with you guys.
One of my oldest friends lives in Switzerland and I always try and visit when I’m nearby. After exploring Zurich and catching up, I headed out to the Alps for a few days of winter exploring and adventures. Ever since I learned to snowboard at Treble Cone in New Zealand where I live, I’ve been hooked.
I knew I wanted to try and snowboarding there next time I found myself in Switzerland in winter, and I had my chance last March. And wait for it, I got so so SO lucky with a one meter bluebird powder day!
At the time, I was a bit grumpy because the weather was dismal by the time I managed to drive to Interlaken. Driving in Europe is a tad bit different from New Zealand, and Switzerland is fast, efficient and full of tunnels.
The next two days we ended up spending exploring Interlaken itself while the weather rained and rained. I had always lucked out with clear blue sky days every time I visited. But you know what it means in winter if it’s a freezing drizzle in town? It usually means it’s dumping snow in the mountains!
After saying goodbye to my friend, I drove up to Lauterbrunnen to head to the Jungfrau region, which by the way is quite possibly the most beautiful valley in the entire world. No, I do not say that lightly. I’d been out here many times and I never get tired of it. And this time it was covered in fresh white snow from the storms turning it into a winter wonderland.
With sheer cliff faces on either side and huge glaciers in the distance with a picturesque European village nestled beneath a waterfall, it seriously doesn’t look real.
From there I caught the train up into the mountains to Wengen where I was staying the night, one of those car-free alpine villages that look straight out of a fairytale.
Now excuse me while I go on a bit of a tangent here, but seriously Switzerland has what might be the best transport system in the world. I can’t even believe it. My first experience with ski resorts was in New Zealand, where the drives are fairly dodgy gravel roads with little guardrails and a few chairlifts and rope tows. Let’s call it rustic. Classic. Authentic. Cough, cough, basic.
Now we have Switzerland, where they literally built a train that goes to the top of a 3,500 meter tall glaciated mountain 100 years ago, and the entire Alps are all connected with car-less villages, huge gondolas, small gondolas, a bazillion chairlifts, and roads just for skiing. There are ski-in ski-out hotels, restaurants, cafes, chalets, and so many trails you could definitely not see them all in a week, and oh, there is also a train you can catch too. You can literally take a train to ski!
WHAT IS THIS??
Oh, and it all runs like clockwork. Switzerland, you are ridiculously amazing.
The sun was just starting to peak through the lifting snow clouds and was beginning to set as I made my way to the hotel in Wengen. Wengen, and the Alps around Interlaken in general give me major Grand Budapest Hotel vibes, which means I obviously love it.
Switzerland has the history and culture in combination with epic mountains; it feels like you step back in time to some grand European tour of the 19th century when you’re there combined with modern day efficiency. It’s outstanding, though can sometimes feel dated, in a good way.
With everything covered in perfect white fresh snow with the occasional deep line I knew the next day was going to be an amazing day of snowboarding and I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.
I was up early the next morning exploring the town before meeting up with my guide and renting a board. Before I knew it, we were piling into a huge 80 person gondola and zipping up the mountain to Männlichen. Anyone want to kickstart one of these in Wanaka with me? Anyone? Anyone?
I’m still a beginner/intermediate snowboarder, but even I can appreciate a good powder day. After all, it hurts a hell of a lot less to wipe out on soft fresh snow than it does on weeks old packed down icy piste.
I couldn’t believe how big the area is. Predominantly easy to medium-difficulty terrain, it’s perfect for newbies like me. It just goes on and on, for 110 kilometers in fact. Wengen is a great place to base yourself in a picture perfect alpine village to ski around the Jungfrau region. From here you can also easily access Grindelwald and Mürren-Schilthorn.
Basically you can ski new runs here forever.
Even now, that was probably my best day snowboarding to date. Like, I’m still on such a high from it. The runs were so long, and it felt like there was always some new corner to go explore.
I spent most of my time around the tops I think, near Kleine Scheidegg, so the runs were wide and open, something else I appreciate. I always hate being on narrow runs where I feel like I am going to fly off the edge into an abyss. Messes with my head and I usually crash into something. Or someone.
But that was something I loved about snowboarding in such a huge region – it literally felt like I had the place to myself. I don’t know if that’s because it was a weekday in March or what, but there were very few people about. And strangely enough, like no other snowboarders. Plenty of euro skiers in neon colored tight one pieces, but not that many snowboarders. Why?
I have this memory of my first run. It felt so wide it could have been a soccer field, and there was no one else on it and it was almost all untracked snow. My ski guide had zipped ahead of me, but I just remember flying back and forth across the whole thing from side to side with no one around me just laughing and whopping with glee as I got covered in snow.
It was the most magical moment of the trip, and I still can’t think about it and not smile. It was one of those moments that made me realize how much fun snowboarding could be. For me, snowboarding is a huge challenge because I have so much fear, but when you have perfect circumstances like this day, I found that my happiness outweighed my anxieties and I was able to push through and truly enjoy myself.
That is, until I got overconfident and went straight off piste into a huge untracked section of snow – which was fun and felt like flying til I realized I don’t actually know how to ride powder and I wiped out. And then couldn’t get up again.
I can’t even put into words how amazing it was to be in such an amazing part of Switzerland on such a great day. I was snowboarding in front of the towering Eiger North Face. It’s beyond impressive, and I had to pinch myself more than once to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
We stopped for an amazing lunch at the Hotel Wengernalp that you ski into – there is a little tunnel you have to ride through to get there, which I promptly faceplanted into – be warned.
I made sure to head to Wengernalp because my flatmate in Wanaka worked here for a few seasons and after hearing all her stories, I had to see it for myself. Sitting outside in the sun looking at the huge mountains drinking champagne eating the most delicious cheese dishes after an amazing morning snowboarding is not something I’ll likely soon forget. Talk about snow luxury.
Even with all my travels, this particular day in Switzerland stands out for me as one of the best. I rode until the sun started to set and I couldn’t turn anymore because my legs gave out. Sigh. Can I go back now?
Do you ski or snowboard? Where’s the best place you’ve ridden? Have you been to the Jungfrau in Switzerland?